Monday, 1 December 2014

Review 8 - Velier Diamond 1996 SSN 16 year old

Photo copyright © H.Kristoffersen
Awesome, brutal, crazy, beautiful demerara.

Ladies and Gentlemen. Please allow me to kick things up a notch.
This is my first review attempt at a product from what I have to admit is my favourite bottler so far.

What we have here is the 2012 version of Velier Diamond 1996. A 16 year old 63,4% beast straight out of Guyana, South America.

Distilled in one of the many stills at Demerara Distillers Ltd. this particular rum has since picked up by Mr. Luca Gargano – the man behind Velier SpA. A company from Genoa, Italy specialised in finding unique rums and bottling them under their own name.

For a great in depth article of Velier check out my fellow rummie Lone Caners site. Not long ago he did a massive article about the company and their rum legacy. A great read. Link can be found at the bottom of this review.

This particular bottling consists of 3 barrels which produced 828 bottles. All in all not the most common thing to come across.

One word: Understated.

The bottle comes in a thick card board box of great quality. It doesn't bombard you with colours, irritating marketing gimmicks or self-righteousness. It is just black with a few yellow boxes with information.

The first one: ”Diamond 1996. Very Old Demerara Rum. Aged 16 Years in Tropical Weather”. Nothing more. The second one: ”63,4% vol. Distilled 1996 – Bottled 2012. Stock of 3 Barrels – 828 bottles produced”.

Thank you Velier!

The box tells me every objective thing I need to know to be able to create an expectation of what to find inside. Provided that I know my rum lore and have an idea what a Diamond rum is and what the 63,4% vol. will mean.  

No fluffy sales pitch to lure me in. Just basic information about the product.

The bottle. Yet again understated. It just black and barely see through. The yellow information fields are now labels on the bottle. It’s that simple.

On the back of the bottles is a little piece of what I tell my self is Italian poetry (I have no idea what is says, so it might as well be poetry) signed Luca Gargano.

In addition to the poetry we find the mark of barrels (SSN), the number of the casks and a little red rectangle saying: ”Angels share > 75%”. So more than 75% of what was poured into the casks after distillation has evaporated during the 16 year slumber. Crazy stuff…

The simple exterior is crowned by a natural cork with a wooden stopper.

I simply love this appearance. The simplicity, the amount of useful details, the absence of marketing palaver, the self confident expression. It just screams quality product. And that is even before uncorking the bottle. I wonder what is inside. 

When poured into the glass the simply dressed brute sported a light mahogany colour and a twirl hinted a lot of oiliness with some nice slow dancing legs.

I suspected to have my nostrils singed by the massive 63,4% ABV. But instead my sense of smell was pummelled by insane molasses, plum and apricot marmalades and maple syrup.

The second assault brought dried figs, caramelised oranges and raw, pure licorice.
Lingering below it all was what I identified as full bodied red wine, suede and a little cough syrup.

After my nose seemed to get away with the nosing without permanent injury I expected my palate to be in for a similar treat.

Boy was it ever.

Again the alcohol was in quite a playful mood. At no point did it try to rip my tonsils out and scorch its way through my oesophagus before detonating a nuke in my stomach.

If anything it just brought a lot of warmth. I was going to write heat, but heat seems a little to unpleasant. It really was quite nice – just like how a sauna can also be nice even though it actually is way to hot for anybody outside Finland.

The first actual taste to jump out was a tiny but noticeable spicy oak followed by gargantuan – and properly insane – hordes of pure liquorice root juice.

Closing the parade was some fruity molasses and anise.

What struck me most was the absence of sugary sweetness. Almost the entire sweetness was coupled with the licorice. And still the spiciness of the liquorice was the most dominant.

Moving toward the end of the taste I suddenly realised that the tiny spicy oak was still there and had been the entire time this time followed by a little red wine.

The dominant parts of the taste – the pure liquorice spice and the warmth of the alcohol – is what you are left with the longest.

There is absolutely no sticky or syrupy aftermath. Just warmth and pleasant spice. Oh yeah … and that tiny indomitable oak just seems to keep shining without making too much of a fuzz.

Rating and final thoughts
Simply a great rum. 

I love the simplicity. I love the crazy strength. I love the way this rum demands my full attention and how it demands of me to make an effort. I love how it doesn't seem to miss anything. It is a marvel on its own terms. Like it or not. The Diamond 1996 really couldn't care less. It will however beat you senseless if you ask it to – it’s that strong.

You don't need many glasses of this liquid badassery before your head starts buzzing.
Make no mistake. This is not an easy or casual drinker. It is serious business.

Before planting the last period I usually talk a little about price but in this case I will just try to stress the fact that if you can spare the coin, buy it.

And without saying too much, that advice goes with any bottle you can find from Velier.

I have tried several so far and they are absolutely fantastic rums in each their own way. I have yet to try a Velier that disappoints me or sticks out as bad craftsmanship.

The ones I have tried so far does not only qualify as great spirits. They are art.

Enough brown nosing and on with the scoring. Since this is my 8th review I guess I might as well break my own method of scoring. Why not?

This rum is not quite a 10 but it is very close. I don’t know why but I feel that this is too good to be a 9 and not quite spectacular enough to be a 10. So therefore…

Rating: 86/100

The Diamond 1996 is also available in a 15 year old version, with different barrel marks.



  1. What a great review. Also one of my favourite rums, and among the first of the Veliers I ever tried.

    1. Thank you for your compliment. It is a great rum indeed.

      However I do suspect that this particular bottle might be different from the Diamond 1996 on your site.

      I have no idea if they could be from the same distillation despite having different marks (SVW vs. SSN) - they both are from 1996.
      The difference in proof could be a result of having spent an extra year in the barrels.

      A side by side tasting could be very interesting though :)